Mining Claims and Other Land Laws

Learn some helpful tips for buying mining claims and other land laws.

| April/May 1998

Q. As I understand it, under the General Mining Law of 1872, I can claim from twenty to one hundred and sixty acres by paying one dollar per acre per year, plus a required one hundred dollars per year expenditure for attempting to extract valuable minerals or metals from the ground. What I have not been able to ascertain is if I can live on the claim three hundred and sixty-five days a year. In other words, can I homestead upon the claim while working it? 

Also, if no minerals or precious metals are found upon the claim, may I continue to hold title to the land for an indefinite period of time by meeting the above-mentioned tax and expenditure requirements? I hope this public-lands title is a way I can realize my life-long dream.  

— Brian Devanney
Shrub Oak, NY

A. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all lay claim to public lands simply by paying a small fee every year and end up with title to the property? Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Earlier in this decade, some foreign interests claimed a portion of our United States soil under the old 1872 mining law. As that was not the intent of the law, a moratorium has been placed on the granting of mining patents.

Before the moratorium, it was possible to actually receive patented ownership to a mining claim on certain public lands. But even then, it was not exactly easy to do. One could claim up to one hundred and sixty acres for a placer mine (dealing with water), or up to twenty acres for a lode mine (ore located in rock). Many requirements had to be met, and the fees involved were just a part of them.

Nowadays, claims can still be staked for mines, but one does not gain ownership of the land. If you are interested in mining public lands, you should contact the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), listed under the Federal Government in the telephone directory. They will send you a packet of information on the requirements and procedures for staking a claim. Extensive research must be done to determine the location of unclaimed land; proof of geological evidence of valuable minerals must be provided. Then you must record documents with the county in which your claim is located and with BLM. You must provide BLM with a mining plan. After it is reviewed, it will be approved or more information will be required. You may not start mining until you receive approval.

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